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Joseph Sangl: I Was Broke, Now I’m Not

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A couple of months ago, a frequent commenter sent me an interesting e-mail. Joseph Sangl said he was going through the process of writing a book. Two weeks ago, his book arrived in the mail. There are a few bloggers with book deals, but this is the first book from a blogger that I actually held in my hand. It has a very compelling title, "I Was Broke, Now I'm Not." The book is self-published, you can buy it from JosephSangl.com.  While you are there you might want to give his blog a read.

I spent two hours reading the book from cover to cover. I actually had time to stop and return a few e-mails, turn down a low-ball offer from someone looking to buy this site, and optimize this site to load slightly faster. I also took notes along the way. And I'm a very, very, slow reader. I think the average reader could probably finish this book in an hour.

There were some thing that I didn't necessary agree with. That's not to say that they were wrong, it's just that I have a different viewpoint. It's worth noting that my view is clouded by the fact that I've never been in significant debt. Here are some of them:

  • Budgeting - About 90% of the book is about budgeting. He makes a point that one who does not budget is probably broke (pg. 45). I know a lot of people that don't budget. I would be included in that group. I even wrote that you might not need a budget in the past.
  • Dave Ramsey and Debt Snowball - I really hate to read about the "debt snowball." Why? Because Dave Ramsey is Bad at Math. If the math points me to a better of way of doing things that's what I do.
  • The Message to Use Cash - For the intended audience, those in debt, this is a good message. However some people are able to get a free $500 for using a credit card. The key is to be in a position to pay off the card at the end of the month.
  • Religion - The book got a little heavy on religion for my tastes. I've always thought that one's religious belief system should not be a factor in your financial freedom - unless your full-time vocation is religious in nature.
  • Pickle Jar of Change - You know I'm getting picky when I bring this up. Joseph Sangl had a co-worker that used $5 bill each day on a vending machine at work. He pocketted the change and put it in a jar. When he cashed in the jar, he was debt-free. This was written as a positive story. I couldn't help but think how much the vending machine mark-up was. I imagine that he was spending over a dollar (or else he would use a dollar), which makes me think that he might have saved himself $150 a year if he just bought at a store and brought the product into work.

With those hard parts out of the way, here are the things that I loved:

  • His Enthusiasm - In the conclusion, he wrote that he's poured himself into the book. He didn't need to write it because it came off of every word on every page.
  • His Personal Story - You get a good view of Mr. Sangl's life. You understand where he came from,the obstacles he faced, and the solutions he found. This gives you complete picture on how you might be able to duplicate his success.
  • Budgeting - While I put it in the above, this also fits down here. It's a very solid and thorough guide to budgeting.
  • Housing Chart - On page 15 there's a great way to visualize mortgage payments. I can't tell you more without giving it away. You'll have to read the book.
  • Dream Chart - He's got another chart on page 85 that I will call the dream chart. It's geared to getting out of debt, but I could see it useful for achieving any goal. For instance, I think I'll adapt it to my retirement goals.
  • Planning and Protection - Sangl has some very good analogies on planning ahead and protecting yourself against emergencies

Though I've never heard Mr. Sangl speak in person, I imagine that his book is a great complement to the message of responsible finances that he's spreading.

Last updated on February 6, 2008.

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7 Responses to “Joseph Sangl: I Was Broke, Now I’m Not”

  1. I’ve got to agree with you. I’ve never used a budget, and I have never been in debt beyond my mortgage. I’ve got good investments, though I have a low income. (What I am is stingy.)

    The one place I do disagree with you is on the debt snowball. Yes, for those of us who have control of our spending (which generally means people who aren’t in debt) going with the numbers is right. However, the snowball method of handling any overwhelming task is a great one for people who need to deal with the psychological issues. If you have a huge To Do List, for instance, and you know you aren’t going to get through it, very often it is best to winnow the list down by doing the easy tasks first. This is really a YMMV issue.

    The other thing I REALLY agree with you on is the vending machine thing. For goodness sakes, put the whole five dollar bill in the change jar and put that all on the debt. If you must, buy better snacks out of it at the store, for a better price.

  2. Moneymonk says:

    Way to go Joe !!!!

  3. bobita says:

    I’m not sure I agree about the vending machine. The VM’s where I’ve worked have been more than reasonably priced – a 20 oz. soda is currently 50 cents and snacks cost 75 cents, in Manhattan. If I brought these items in from home at a slightly better unit price, I know I would definitely eat more, which would increase my daily costs (plus my waistline). Having to whip out cash keeps me in check vs having them sitting in my desk. Like the debt snowball, the pickle jar method is not mathematically sound but psychologically it can help debt reduction feel less like deprivation.

  4. pfodyssey says:

    I’ve had several e-mail exchanges with Joe and:

    1) He is very passionate about personal finance
    2) He is equally enthusiastic about helping people
    3) He is absolutely committed to an entirely debt free existence…particularly his mortgage.

    Although I have more fun disagreeing with JD (heh), I support just about every point made. Generally, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to personal finance.

  5. I looked over this guys blog, and it seemed to me that he is still drownin in debt. I would not take his book too seriously though. Some of his ideas might not work for people who know to not spend frivolously..

  6. Lazy Man says:

    As with anything you read, it’s best to judge yourself. If someone with a lot of debt says to save more than you spend, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong.

    I don’t know Mr. Sangl’s financial situation, but his income might be only from giving talks and teaching people about finances. As one might imagine, it might not pay well to get one out of debt. Sometimes it’s worth taking a job because it helps other people avoid the mistakes you made.

  7. BillyBob says:

    As one who has had one on one counseling by Joe Sangle, I can say his advise is good. I was one who didn’t manage money well and racked up over 30g in debt not including my house. I always listened to all the c.c ads and thought by managing my debt a would keep a good credit score and all would be well. But as years passed and debt built up to over 30g, I just saw all the money I was dishing out to those c.c. companies and was feeling like I was in no situation to get out. But Joe’s advise and budgetting has helped me to overcome my debt. It’s been over a year and a half since I started my budgetting and the plan was to be out of debt by 2 years. I can say with confidence that I’ll be out of debt by Nov. not including the house. I’ve found by budgetting that I still have plenty of money to put to entertainment and vacations while still knocking debt away. The feeling is great. As far as the responses above, Joe is the financial pastor at the church I belong to and I would say that he is no longer in any debt except for his house. He pays by cash or debit card and has no c.c.’s by all the talks I’ve had with him. He does do many speaking engagements on financial counseling and goes just about anywhere. The church i belong to is NewSpring Community Church in Anderson, SC at http://www.newspring.cc and Joe’s teaching are right inline with the Bible for God wants us to manage what he has given us.

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